(by Dustin Putman
Two years after rendering audiences temporarily brain dead and polluting cinema screens within an inch of the very apocalypse with the putrid one-two punch of "Meet the Spartans" and "Disaster Movie," go-to hacks Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have returned for another onslaught of lame self-referential spoofery in "Vampires Suck." A virtual scene-for-scene remake of "Twilight" and "New Moon" combined, things are played more broadly than in those Stephanie Meyer adaptations, but it somehow manages to be less funny. Then again, when half the so-called jokes involve people getting kicked, punched, smashed in the face with shovels, and generally having the crap beat out of them, it's difficult to compete with the painfully sincere, pricelessly cornball dialogue found in the real thing. Article continues below
When her mother abandons her to get it on with Tiger Woods and follow him around the country on his pro golf tour, teenager Becca Crane (Jenn Proske) goes to live with her estranged sheriff father Frank (Diedrich Bader) in the rainy, vampire-obsessed town of Sporks, Washington. At her new high school, she is immediately drawn to the brooding, pale-faced Edward Sullen (Matt Lanter). She senses something isn't quite right with him, but all the signs go over her head that he is a bloodsucker. No sooner has she found out when wolfy childhood friend Jacob White (Chris Riggi) makes a lost-cause bid for her affections. Frightened of what he might do to her if they get too close, Edward skips town, leaving Becca to roll around in the woods, kicking and screaming like a baby. This twisted love triangle is destined to come to a head, and the prom is right around the corner.
Maybe because this is the same year that has seen the release of one of the worst films of the last ten years, the irredeemable Brendan Fraser monstrosity "Furry Vengeance," but "Vampires Suck" actually turns out to be a step above what writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have been crapping out for the last several years. Indeed, these two have previously reached such a nadir in filmmaking that even this, an awful movie that only generously rates at a half-star, can be considered above their general average. For one, the production values are slightly improved—the picture was shot on actual locations, rather than on phony, Styrofoam-laden soundstages—and for two, there is something resembling a flimsy narrative to follow rather than just a barely-connected series of sketches. Unfortunately, the sound effects are still atrocious, not always matching up with what is on screen, and the make-up is subpar, with glue around a fake mustache clearly visible.
Laugh-wise, there are exactly two modestly funny moments. When Becca first arrives at her father's home, he tells her he has kept her bedroom exactly as she left it when she was little. What she walks into is a nursery, complete with a crib, toys galore, and a hamster skeleton pinned to an exercise wheel. The second laugh, as dumb as it is, arrives near the end when a person knocks into a record player at the prom and the entire class starts doing the hustle to the sounds of the Van McCoy disco anthem. Meanwhile, Seltzer and Friedberg—not exactly what one could call clever artists, or artists of any kind—do shrewdly comment on the "Twilight" series when Becca describes herself as a boring, frigid, insecure sourpuss who, for reasons unknown to her, guys find irresistible.
The rest of "Vampires Suck" is interminable. Pop-culture references that will have no shelf life run rampant, from "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" to "Jersey Shore." Other gags, like a scene where Jacob and his wolf pack strip off their shirts and dance to The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men," are so archaic (not to mention homophobic) they've even shown up in past heinous opuses from the Seltzer-Friedberg team. Would-be comedy flies fast, but it all feels recycled and stupid—not so stupid it's funny, mind you, like in "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun," which actually had brains behind their ridiculousness, but so stupid it's just plain stupid. Adding insult to injury, Seltzer and Friedberg have the comic timing of a dead rat, totally ill-equipped and without a clue about how to shoot, edit, and sell their bids for low-rent humor. Mostly they just recall elements from other movies, television shows, etc. without putting an actual lampooning spin on them.
At 82 minutes, "Vampires Suck" is so desperate, empty-headed, and lacking in, well, everything that it becomes an endurance test by the halfway mark. As bad as it is, however, directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have done even worse, making the experience slightly less infuriating this time around. As Becca, newcomer Jenn Proske has the Kristen Stewart imitation down pat; in a more legitimate feature, maybe she'd be an okay actress. What more skilled performers like Ken Jeong (2009's "The Hangover"), Arielle Kebbel (2009's "The Uninvited"), and Diedrich Bader (2007's "Balls of Fury") are doing here, however, is anybody's guess. The sight of them stranded on camera with nothing to do, looking distinctly embarrassed, is uncomfortable in the extreme. Besides snatching money out of the pockets of viewers who should know better by now, "Vampires Suck" is intended to call out the current oversaturated fad that is the toothy undead in popular entertainment. It is the latter word in the title, though, that most accurately describes the film: suck.